Honoring the Sacrifice of Haitian Mamas on Mamas Day
My mother, a Haitian-born woman, came to the United States on a boat in the late 1980s. Around that time, the Haitian government was a dictatorship, and thousands of people were looking to leave the island of Haiti. My mother was one of them, running away from a severe political climate, searching for a dream to provide security and stability for her family. She was searching for an American dream — a dream she learned was simply an illusion. She was held in at Krome Detention Center in Florida, and wasn’t released until months later.
Like a lot of Haitian immigrants, my mother came here and left a lot behind. She left her home and two young children, my sisters, in order to come to a new place, with a new language. She had to assimilate to American culture; of course, there was a balance of Haitian culture, but the assimilation was very clear. She continued in her Christian beliefs, had to speak a new language, and really had to find herself all over again, many times working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. I remember her waking me up at 5:00 am just so she could take a train and a bus to make it to work on time.
Sometimes we had to live in shared housing with cousins, aunts, and uncles. There were times we had to brush our teeth in public bathrooms. But the truth is, no matter how hard my mother worked, we still faced homelessness.
Black Haitian women face massive amounts of deportations and separation of families under the most recent attack on Temporary Protective Status for Haitian communities. If TPS is not regranted, as many as 50,000 Haitians living across the United States will be stripped of work authorization and will be prioritized for ICE removal.
No matter what land we are on, whether it is on the American land or on the Island of Haiti, one thing is for sure: all land is God’s land. All human beings have the God-given birthright to have the fundamental needs of quality land, food, water, and shelter met. All mamas deserve to have these basic needs met, as well. Unfortunately, under the current administration, Haitian immigrant mamas face deep criminalization and discriminatory policies like the failure to renew TPS. The Trump administration is creating an environment where Haitians are not able to access resources to meet their basic needs.
Each year on Mamas Day, Forward Together celebrates mamas whose stories are oftentimes overlooked. This year, in light of the Trump administration’s attacks on Black Immigrants and their families, we lift up the love, sacrifice, and protection of Black Haitian mamas.
We know that all families in the United States belong here. We want to create a world where Black immigrant mamas can dream without being held in detention centers or sent back to a land they were running away from. My mother belongs here, and so do all Black immigrants. We want to create a nation where each of us feels welcomed, embraced, and at home.
In Kreyol we say, “Manmam pase anpil mize Avek mwen,” which translates to, ”My mom went through a lot of struggle with me.”
For that I say, Ase, because this is the truth.
One thing is for sure: my mother never left me hungry, and she gave me values that I could live with daily, including faith, resilience, and joy.
As the Trump administration promotes xenophobia and sows division, now more than ever we need to show solidarity with immigrant mamas. We must show Black Haitian immigrants and their families that they are not alone and send a clear message to the administration that we won’t allow attacks on any of our families.
This Mamas Day, send a Mamas Day card to a Black immigrant or Muslim mama to show your love, support, and solidarity. Donate to Forward Together to support our Mamas Day tradition of recognizing mamahood in all forms, and create a future where women and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential.
Happy Mamas Day to all the mothers out there, and Ayibobo and Ase to my very own mother!
Ruth Jeannoel is a first-generation Haitian American, mother, wife, community organizer and writer in Miami, FL. Born and raised in Cambridge, MA, Ruth has been organizing since the 4th grade with her first boycott around “opting” out of the state’s standardized test. She continued her organizing work throughout high school and college in spaces where it related to youth voice around access to public education and gender justice. Ruth studied Social Thought, Political Economy & Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In her extra time, she supports her community as a full-spectrum doula and a Restorative Justice Circle Keeper Trainer. Ruth is also a writer with Echoing Ida, a program of Forward Together.